With my company we now have fully moved out of Slack and into Rocket.Chat. We’re hosting our own Rocket.Chat instance on a server in an Amsterdam data center.

We had been using Slack since 2016, and used it both for ourselves, and with some network partners we work with. Inviting in (government) clients we never did, because we couldn’t guarantee the location of the data shared. At some point we passed the free tier’s limits, meaning we’d have to upgrade to a paid plan to have access to our full history of messages.

Rocket.chat is an open source alternative that is offered as a service, but also can be self-hosted. We opted for a Rocket.chat specific package with OwnCube. It’s an Austrian company, but our Rocket.chat instance is hosted in the Netherlands.

Slack offers a very well working export function for all your data. Rocket.chat can easily import Slack archives, including user accounts, channels and everything else.

With the move complete, we now have full control over our own data and access to our entire history. The cost of hosting (11.50 / month) is less than Slack would already charge for 2 users when paid annually (12.50 / month). The difference being we have 14 users. That works out as over 85% costs saving. Adding users, such as clients during a project, doesn’t mean higher costs now either, while it will always be a better deal than Slack as long as there’s more than 1 person in the company.

We did keep the name ‘slack’ as the subdomain on which our self-hosted instance resides, to ease the transition somewhat. All of us switched to the Rocket.chat desktop and mobile apps (Elmine from Storymines helping with navigating the installs and activating the accounts for those who wanted some assistance).

Visually, and in terms of user experience human experience, it’s much the same as Slack. The only exception being the creation of bots, which requires some server side wrangling I haven’t looked into yet.

The move to Rocket.chat is part of a path to more company-wide information hygiene (e.g. we now make sure all of us use decent password managers with the data hosted on EU servers, and the next step is running our own cloud e.g. for collaborative editing with clients and partners), and more information security.

Today 17 years ago, at 14:07, I published my first blog post, and some 2000 followed since then. Previously I kept a website that archive.org traces back to early 1998, which was the second incarnation of a static website from 1997 (Demon Internet, my first ISP other than my university, entered the Dutch market in November 1996, and I became their customer at the earliest opportunity. From the start they gave their customers a fixed IP address, allowing me to run my own server, next to the virtual server space they provided with a whopping 5MB of storage 😀 .) Maintaining a web presence for over 22 years is I think the longest continuous thing I’ve done during my life.

Last year I suggested to myself on my 16th bloggiversary to use this date yearly to reflect:

Last year the anniversary of this blog coincided with leaving Facebook and returning to writing in this space more. That certainly worked out. Maybe I should use this date to yearly reflect on how my online behaviours do or don’t aid my networked agency.

In the past 12 months I’ve certainly started to evangelise technology more again. ‘Again’ as I did that in the ’00s as well when I was promoting the use of social software (before it’s transformation into, todays mostly toxic, social media), for informal learning networks, knowledge management and professional development. My manifesto on Networked Agency from 2016, as presented at last year’s State of the Net, is the basis for that renewed effort. It’s not a promotion of tech for tech’s sake, as networked agency comes part and parcel with ethics by design, a perception of digital transformation as distributed digital transformation, and attention in general for how our digital tools are a reflection and extension of our human networks and human nature (when ‘smaller‘ and optionally networked for richer results).

Looking back 12 months I think I’ve succeeded in doing a few things on the level of my own behaviour, my company, my clients, and general communities and society. It’s all early beginnings, but a consistent effort of small things builds up over time steadily I suppose.

On a personal level I kept up the pace of my return to more intensive blogging two years ago, and did more to make my blog not only the nexus but also the starting point for most of my online material. (E.g. I now mostly send out Tweets and Toots from my blog directly). I also am slowly re-adopting and rebuilding my information strategies of old. More importantly I’m practicing more show and tell, of how I work with information. At the Crafting {a} Life unconference that Peter organised on Prince Edward Island in June I participated in three conversations on blogging that way. Peter’s obligation to explain is good guidance in general here.

For my company it means we’ve embarked on a path to more information security awareness, starting with information hygiene mostly. This includes avoiding silos where possible, and beginning the move to a self-hosted Slack-like environment and our own cloud. This is a reflection of my own path in this field since the spring of 2014, then inspired by Brenno de Winter and Arjen Kamphuis, whose disappearance a year ago made me more strongly realise the importance of paying lessons learned forward.

With clients I’ve put the ethics of working with data front and center, which includes earlier topics like privacy law, data sovereignty and procurement, but also builds on my company’s principle of always ensuring the involvement of all external stakeholders when it comes to figuring out the use and value of open government and open data. Some of that is awareness raising, some of that is ensuring small practical steps are taken. Our company is now building up a ‘holistic’ data governance program for clients that includes all this, not just the technical side of data governance.

On the community side several things I got myself involved in are tied to this.

As a board member of Open Nederland I help spread the word about how to allow others to make use of your work with Creative Commons licenses, such as at the recent Open Access Week organised by the Leeuwarden library. Agency and making, and especially the joy of finding (networked) agency through making, made possible by considered sharing, was also my message at the CoderDojo Conference Netherlands last weekend.

Here in the Netherlands I co-hosted two IndieWebCamps in Utrecht in April, and in Amsterdam in September (triggered by a visit to an IndieWebCamp in Germany a year ago). With my co-organiser Frank we’ve also launched a Meet-up around IndieWeb in the hope of more continuously engaging a more local group of participants.

I’ve also contributed to the Copenhagen 150 this year at Techfestival, which resulted in the TechPledge. Specifically I worked to get some version of being responsible for creating ongoing public debate around any tech you create in there, to make reflection integral to tech development. I took the TechPledge, and I ask you to do the same.

Another take-away from my participation in the Copenhagen 150, is to treat my involvement in the use and development of technology more deliberately as a political act in its own right. This allows me to feel a deeper connection I think between tech as extension of human reach and global topics that require a sense of urgency of humanity.

Here’s to another year of blogging, and, more importantly, reading your blog!

Voor iedereen die zich bezig houdt met digitale transformatie bij de overheid is Maike Klip’s weblog over service design de moeite van het volgen waard. Toegevoegd aan de feedreader. Met dank aan Alper voor de tip.

Read Klipklaar

Hi, ik ben Maike Klip en dit is mijn researchblog. Ik onderzoek hoe de digitale overheid een begripvolle verbinding kan hebben met mensen in Nederland. Als je nieuw bent op mijn blog en midden in mijn zoektocht valt, begin dan hier en ik praat je bij.

Ethics is the expression of values in actual behaviour. So when you want to do data ethics it is about practical issues, and reconsidering entrenched routines. In the past few weeks I successfully challenged some routine steps in a clients’ organisation, resulting in better and more ethical use of data. The provision of subsidies to individuals is arranged by specific regulations. The regulations describe the conditions and limitations for getting a subsidy, and specify a set of requirements when you apply for a subsidy grant. Such subsidy regulations, once agreed have legal status.

With the client we’re experimenting in making it vastly less of an effort for both requester and the client to process a request. As only then does it make sense to provide smaller sized subsidies to individual citizens. Currently there is a rather high lower limit for subsidies. Otherwise the costs of processing a request would be higher than the sum involved, and the administrative demands for the requester would be too big in comparison to the benefits received. Such a situation typically leads to low uptake of the available funding, and ineffective spending, which both make the intended impact lower (in this case reducing energy usage and CO2 emissions).

In a regular situation the drafting of regulation and then the later creation of an application form would be fully separate steps, and the form would probably blindly do what the regulations implies or demands and also introduce some overshoot out of caution.

Our approach was different. I took the regulation and lifted out all criteria that would require some sort of test, or demands that need a piece of information or data. Next, for each of those criteria and demands I marked what data would satisfy them, the different ways that data could be collected, and what role it played in the process. The final step is listing the fields needed in the form and/or those suggested by the form designers, and determining how filling those fields can be made easier for an applicant, (E.g. having pick up lists)

A representation of the steps taken / overview drawn

What this drawing of connections allows is to ask questions about the need and desirability of collecting a specific piece of data. It also allows to see what it means to change a field in a form, for how well the form complies with the regulation, or which fields and what data flows need to change when you change the regulation.

Allowing these questions to be asked, led to the realisation that several hard demands for information in the draft regulation actually play no role in determining eligibility for the subsidy involved (it was simply a holdover from another regulation that was used as template, and something that the drafters thought was ’nice to have’). As we were involved early, we could still influence the draft regulation and those original unneeded hard demands were removed just before the regulation came up for an approval vote. Now that we are designing the form it also allows us to ask whether a field is really needed, where the organisation is being overcautious about an unlikely scenario of abuse, or where it does not match an actual requirement in the regulation.

Questioning the need for specific data, showing how it would complicate the clients’ work because collecting it comes with added responsibilities, and being able to ask those questions before regulation was set in stone, allowed us to end up with a more responsible approach that simultaneously reduced the administrative hoops for both applicant and client to jump through. The more ethical approach now is also the more efficient and effective one. But only because we were there at the start. Had we asked those questions after the regulation was set, it would have increased the costs of doing the ethically better thing.

The tangible steps taken are small, but with real impact, even if that impact would likely only become manifest if we hadn’t taken those steps. Things that have less friction get noticed less. Baby steps for data ethics, therefore, but I call it a win.

It’s rather cool to see Neil adopting parts of my information strategies. Looking forward to reading more about how it plays out for him. There were several interested during last weekend’s IndieWebCamp too. Having more perspectives on this approach may help to formulate a more generic description of this process.

Liked a post by Neil MatherNeil Mather

Started with a really simple version of Ton’s infostrat and liking it already….The best part is avoiding anything that has an endless stream of fairly random (but tantalisingly, possibly interesting) stuff….. I’m feeling more intentional, less flighty of attention.

As part of the Techfestival last week, the Copenhagen 150, which this time included me, came together to write a pledge for individual technologists and makers to commit their professional lives to. A bit like a Hippocratic oath, but for creators of all tech. Following up on the Copenhagen Letter, which was a signal, a letter of intent, and the Copenhagen Catalog which provide ‘white patterns’ for tech makers, this years Tech Pledge makes it even more personal.

I pledge

  • to take responsibility for what I create.
  • to only help create things I would want my loved ones to use.
  • to pause to consider all consequences of my work, intended as well as unintended.
  • to invite and act on criticism, even when it is painful.
  • to ask for help when I am uncertain if my work serves my community.
  • to always put humans before business, and to stand up against pressure to do otherwise, even at my own risk.
  • to never tolerate design for addiction, deception or control.
  • to help others understand and discuss the power and challenges of technology.
  • to participate in the democratic process of regulating technology, even though it is difficult.
  • to fight for democracy and human rights, and to improve the institutions that protect them.
  • to work towards a more equal, inclusive and sustainable future for us all, following the United Nations global goals.
  • to always take care of what I start, and to fix what we break.

I signed the pledge. I hope you will do to. If you have questions about what this means in practical ways, I’m happy to help you translate it to your practice. A first step likely is figuring out which questions to ask of yourself at the start of something new. In the coming days I plan to blog more from my notes on Techfestival and those postings will say more about various aspects of this. You are also still welcome to sign the Copenhagen Letter, as well as individual elements of the Copenhagen Catalog.